Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
- See also:
Top activities in May 2024
So, aside from the usual museums, tours, concerts and other sights, what does May offer the discerning visitor to Vienna?
Art exhibitions & fairs in May
(Enjoy the art at the Albertina Modern and Künstlerhaus)
May 2024 is a while off, so we have to wait to see what most venues will bring us. Highlights so far include:
- A chance to explore the work of Broncia Koller-Pinell in dialogue with her colleagues from the Wiener Moderne at the Lower Belvedere Palace
- Take a deep dive into the delights of diverse art (in its widest sense) at the Albertina Modern
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum has provisional plans for an exhibition showcasing Renaissance era works, with a focus on Hans Holbein the Elder and Hans Burgkmair the Elder
For more exhibition choices, keep an eye on the listings as programmes develop.
A couple of bonus tips for those with a hankering for creativity (all dates TBA at the time of writing):
- The Edelstoff design market
- The Art Austria art fair
- The Parallel Editions version of Parallel Vienna that puts the focus on art editions
- The WAMP design market
- Fanzineist Vienna: an international fair that presents self-published and independent publications in creative fields like art, design and literature. Also has a surrounding programme of workshops, talks, music etc.
And for art in its broadest sense, the huge Wiener Festwochen multidisciplinary art festival usually starts in May and continues through into June with a wide-ranging programme (precise 2024 dates TBA).
Bring a glass
(The national drink)
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down.
The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna itself). Last time I checked the statistics, Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beverages, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery usually has an open day mid-May (2024 dates TBA), which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- If the idea of wine sounds tempting, then consider the VieVinum, an international wine festival at the Hofburg palace (May 25th to 27th).
- The Ottakringer Maifest features beer and entertainment at Vienna’s main brewery (2024 dates TBA)
- Lifting the alcohol content a little, the Vienna Gin Festival is scheduled for May 3rd and 4th
Bring a plate
(That famous central European dark bread)
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, Vienna has plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium festival (2024 dates TBA) encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The huge Genuss Festival in the Stadtpark city park (May 10th to 12th) showcases the best of Austria’s agricultural and viticultural regions
- The European Street Food festival (2024 dates TBA) rolls into town with trucks and stalls tempting you with a wide diversity of culinary delights from around the globe
- The Wiener Zitrustage or Vienna Citrus Days (2024 dates TBA) add a little fizz and colour to the month in the rather apt location of the Schönbrunn Palace orangery
Enjoy the music, sport & celebrations
(The Steffl Kirtag at the cathedral)
The 2024 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Vienna Blues Spring festival stretched across the whole of May in 2023, so may reappear this month in 2024, too
- The Salam Orient festival (2024 dates TBA) offers a blend of music and other artistic expressions of the Middle East and Arab regions
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (next dates TBA) celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- The Konzerthaus began their 40th International Music Festival on May 28th in 2023, so look out for that again in 2024
- The wean hean festival has a series of performances reflecting the Viennese song tradition (2024 dates TBA)
- The annual Steffl Kirtag fair outside the main cathedral filled half of May last year (2024 dates TBA). Think of it as a hybrid market and funfair, with the emphasis on the former
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
Go for a swim (or run)
Vienna’s numerous outdoor public swimming facilities usually open up for the summer from early May. These include:
- Family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- Multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- Summer facilities with open-air pools. Look, particularly, for the large recreational areas along the Alte Donau lake, such as the Gänsehäufel
A running event typically held this month is the Wings for Life World Run, with a flagship event in Vienna (2024 dates TBA).
Buy some popcorn
(A regular film festival host)
International film festivals normally fill Viennese screens during May. For example (all dates yet to be confirmed for 2024 at the time of writing):
- The Jewish Film Festival shows local and international movies that explore Jewish life in all its forms and contexts
- The Ethnocineca international documentary film festival focuses on critical evaluation of social, political and cultural structures
- The mini version of the Slash Film Festival featuring all things fantastical
Enjoy the flowers
(Part of the city’s tulip displays)
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark: the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The gardens between the two Baroque palaces at Belvedere should have a flower or three by now
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park area that also serves as a plant nursery facility for the city